What could a protected intersection look like in Johannesburg?
In the past few years, we have seen some steady growth in bicycle infrastructure in the city.
Design approaches of bicycle lanes have evolved for the better. Below the earliest bicycle lane design which can easily be scaled over.
The much better curb separated bicycle lane design below.
In Alex, just a stones throw from Sandton, there is even a bicycle specific signal.
However, we are yet to see a fully protected bicycle intersection. Such an intersection would be especially important at the confluence of arterial routes featuring heavy motor traffic flows.
Stellenbosch, with a much lower population than Johannesburg and heavier motor traffic has one.
It follows then that Johannesburg should introduce some for safer cycling. Hiten Bawa of Ludwig Hansen Architects + Urban Designers has designed one for an intersection in Braamfontein. Below is how that intersection currently looks.
An alternative perspective of the same below.
This intersection has a bicycle lane on the left hand side of the road separated from motor traffic by low yellow rumble strips. As you can see in the foreground, some minibus taxis are parked comfortably inside them.
Here is how Hiten would transform that intersection.
He describes it as follows:
The forward stop bar is a white marker on the ground to indicate where cyclists should stop and not become an obstruction to on-coming traffic turning around the corner – alternatively it can be a concrete tactile paving block.
..my design does incorporate pedestrian/cyclist priority traffic lights with audible traffic signals to accommodate vision and hearing-impaired people. Audible traffic signals gives vibrations and sounds to indicate safe crossing.
Did you know that the Johannesburg Roads Agency has an app (“Find & Fix”) for smartphones (both OSx and Android) that can be used to report road maintenance issues in real time?
This is a great boon for commuter cyclists, as it means that we can report missing manhole covers, potholes, incorrect road markings, storm water flooding and other hazards to safe cycle commuting.
The (free) app can be downloaded through the usual manner onto your smartphone (through the iTunes account or the Google Play stores). Once downloaded, users need to do a once-off registration and log in, after which they will be able to report issues directly to the JRA.
JUCA encourages all commuter cyclists with smart-phones to download the app and report problematic issues to the JRA. The more commuter cyclists report road problems, the more likely they will be dealt with.
Reporting is easy – although of course it remains to be seen how swiftly and efficiently the problems are dealt with.
JUCA’s Njogu Morgan recently visited Copenhagen, for his PhD fieldwork. Here are his thoughts on what Johannesburg can learn from the famously cycle-friendly city.
Recently I was in Copenhagen as part of my fieldwork towards PhD research into the development of cycling cultures in urban areas. As is well known, Copenhagen is one of the most cycling friendly cities around the world.
I did not find otherwise. Cycling in Copenhagen was simply joyful. There were swarms of people on bicycles everywhere. Here is a picture of a cyclist counter I took one morning.
It shows that by 9am there had already been close to 3,000 cyclists passing through the cycle track at this point.
The traffic culture I found to be very respectful. At street intersections, pedestrians and cyclists are kings and queens. Motorists wait patiently while those cycling or walking cross even on many occasions as I observed, motorists could easily take the gap. At intersections and even on streets that do not have protected cycling paths, I felt at relaxed because I quickly realised that motorists are extremely observant of cyclists and pedestrians.
The infrastructure is simply fantastic. I crisscrossed the city on a bike that friends loaned me. Everywhere I traveled, there were protected cycling tracks or traffic calmed streets. In areas of the City without protected cycling tracks, traffic speeds were reduced drastically.
As a result I did not experience anxiety or the rush of adrenaline associated with interacting with vehicles when the balance of forces are tilted towards vehicles.
Here is a picture of a bridge for pedestrians and cycling.
You can see to the far right cyclists turning right from a protected cycle track adjacent to a major motorway. From this track they can travel across the bridge onto the other side without confronting fast moving vehicles.
Copenhagen is adorned with many pieces of small infrastructures that say to the cyclist hey you – we are thinking of you. Here is a picture of bicycle ramp up a stairwell into a train station.
Bicycle parking is available everywhere in the City. See this highly visible bicycle parking at a new mall.
And at a growing number of intersections there are hand rails for the cyclist to hold onto so they do not have to dismount while they wait for the green light to arrive. The hand rails are also perfect for pushing off.
Bicycles are used for every conceivable purpose that fits into everyday life. See below a picture of cargo bicycle parked outside a bicycle shop.
Taking the children about town – yes sure. As the picture below shows.
Because of this positive orientation towards the bicycle, Copenhagen has a problem that many other cities would love to have; in the central areas during rush hours, the high volume of bikes is creating congestion. The City is responding to this by expanding the width of lanes amongst other measures. Imagine however if all those cyclists were each in their own individual car? The degree of congestion and associated air pollution would be, well simply terrible.
I could endlessly describe the many other ways in which Copenhagen is a fantastic city to bike around…including the unparalleled integration with public transport (taxi-cabs included)…But I think you get the idea.
So what can Johannesburg learn from Copenhagen? In short a lot. But here I draw 2 lessons.
1. Simply “cutting and pasting” solutions from Copenhagen to Johannesburg will not work.
For example some of the designs of the protected cycling tracks transposed into Johannesburg – and South Africa in general would be no deterrent for vehicles. On the far left of the image below, you see a cycle track protected in height and by small barrier from the street.
In contexts where vehicles commonly park on sidewalks, drive on emergency lanes, ignore Zebra crossings, and seemingly accelerate when they spot pedestrians, a few inches in height of separation from the streets will be easily scaled.
Other designs for example where the cycle track is separated by trees or other physical barriers are likely to be more effective.
2. The public image of the bicycle and related attitudes and perceptions towards non-motorised transport are if not more, at least as important as the infrastructure that reflects them.
People using all modes of transportation – cycling, walking, driving, by train – respect each other. While street design and infrastructure at intersections certainly help, I think a large part of the answer is that cycling is not a stigmatised mode of transportation. Everyone rides a bicycle. The old, children, women, men, teenagers and people form all social classes.
Without this legitimation, motorists could easily tramp over the rights of pedestrians and cyclists.